CHARLESTON? - While Tucker County will have to replace four starters next season, Pocahontas County's squad should return nearly intact.
The two area representatives in the girls state tournament saw their seasons end at the Charleston Civic Center last week.
The Mountain Lions lost to St. Marys in the semifinals on Friday after knocking off the Warriors in the quarterfinals the day before.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Joey Kittle
Tucker County’s Madison Mullenax, being defended by Pocahontas County’s Melissa Murphy during state tournament play, is the lone returning starter back for the Mountains Lions next season.
"It's going to be different (next season)," Tucker County coach Jim Ambrose said. "Whenever you lose four starters, it's going to be tough."
Ambrose said the offseason will be the key to making another run at an 11th straight state tourney appearance.
"We'll have players back that saw a lot of time this season," he said. "But what they do, along with the younger girls, during the summer and fall months will determine our chances of staying successful."
Junior guard Madison Mullenax is the only returning starter not lost from this year's 20-5 team. Fellow juniors Olivia Miller and Aiyana Kachmarek, along with freshman Elizabeth Nichols all saw significant playing time.
The four starters lost include Stephanie Betler, Savannah Ambrose, Bekah Simmons and Mariah Bowley. Betler, the team's leading scorer with 12.5 points per game, was selected to the Class A all-tournament team.
"It seems I've been with those four girls forever," Jim Ambrose said. "They were a great bunch to coach and I appreciate the efforts they have gave during their careers here at Tucker County."
For Pocahontas County, four starters are expected back, led by leading scorer Tristin Day and her 17.9 points per game average,
Other holdovers include sophomore guard Melissa Murphy (10.5), junior forward Bobbie McNabb (11.9) and freshman forward Sarah Ryder (9.7).
Starter Lorena Rose and reserve Bethany Arbogast were the lone seniors on the team.
"We had a young team this year and came of age as the season went along," Warriors coach Mike Kane. "A key for us (next season) will be getting our bench stronger, which I think showed improvement this year."
Pocahontas County finished with a 16-8 mark, with three losses coming to Tucker County.